Allowing a Taco Bell on State Street to serve alcohol has “little public value,” Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said in an email the City Council Tuesday.
Further, Soglin said there are more than enough "liquor outlets" in the city and that the violence associated with downtown alcohol establishments is growing.
“If we are concerned about public safety, if we are concerned about mounting law enforcement costs, issuing a license that brings no public value, but great public liability does not make sense,” Soglin said.
In September, Taco Bell announced it would open between 300 and 350 Taco Bell Cantina locations that would sell beer, wine, sangria and alcoholic slushes. As proposed, the Taco Bell Cantina moving into 534 State Street would only sell beer and wine and would be among the first of the fast food chain to sell alcohol.
“They are in business to make money – maximize profits,” Soglin said. “(Since) their existing locations were carefully selected based on location, it makes no sense to see profits drop after 4:00 pm.”
The mayor reminded alders that Starbucks considered applying for a beer and wine license for its downtown location and that many chain establishments are implementing alcohol licenses in stages, from beer and wine and then to full liquor.
“The Taco Bell is just the beginning,” Soglin said.
Madison’s Alcohol License Review Committee approved a license Nov. 16 with four conditions, including that the fast food joint stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and at 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Additionally, 50 percent or less of Taco Bell’s sales can come from alcohol, food must be available at all times and staff must regularly monitor and discourage loitering around the premises.
Pat Eulberg, representing Taco Bell, said at the ALRC meeting that the Taco Bell would not be a bar.
“It is a food-centric operation and alcoholic drinks are only served as an ancillary product to the service of food,” Eulberg said.
The City Council will take up the license at its meeting Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in room 201 of the City-County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Ald. Ledell Zellers, District 2, whose district includes the Taco Bell, said in a letter to the ALRC Nov. 9 that she would not object to the committee granting a license if it included conditions about percentage of food sold, hours that alcohol is available and the availability of food.
“I remain concerned about the density of alcohol licenses on this block of State Street and associated safety issues,” Zellers said.